CAN'T HATE WHAT YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND
Hip-hop for the uninitiated
Let's face it,
ladies and gentlemen, rocking out in a skinny tie and one of your
Dad's old sweaters has been letting you slide as ‘hip’
in England since people actually picked up Smiths albums, but after
seeing the Nth indie-rock-band-cover of The Face magazine, you've
realized that shit just isn't going to fly any more.
Deep down in us all
is a burning desire to play music loud enough to rattle our teeth
and force titties to bounce and asses to shake. We want OUR asses
out there shaking, dammit. And fuck The Streets.
Anyone still listening?
But at the same time
there's an entire side of hip-hop just hiding beneath the surface.
Think of it as the smartest lyrics you've heard in ages. Think of
it as production that's more layered than a Godspeed You Black Emperor
album. Think of it as indie-rap; as goth-rap; as intellectual hip-hop.
Think of everything you wanted in music - and shaking asses.
So here, six American
"underground" hip-hop CDs, all easily available over the
internet full of everything I've been talking about. You don't even
need a record player - yet.
- ‘The Lucy Ford EPs’
Rhyme Sayers Entertainment.
Imagine me, a junior in high school - maybe earlier, bored punk-rocker
in an art school, my favourite music almost all obscure crust punk
and ska bands, writing a fanzine with Rancid on the cover.
And my friend and semi-hero, James and I are hanging out in his
room and he puts on a hip hop 12".
“Dude! Hip-hop? No fucking thanks!” But I humour him,
and he puts on the freshly released ‘Ford’ 12"
by Atmosphere, ‘The Woman with the Tattooed Hands’ to
Thick bass, snare,
and the occasional break beat all layered on top of a jazzy piano
riff so thick it makes me tingle when I listen to it (then, definitely,
and even now sometimes). A song about a woman with tattoos that…well;
I don't want to spoil the song for you.
Just about every week
for a year I would pester my local record store to get it in, and
just when I had forgotten about Atmosphere - and that first taste
of hip hop that agreed with me - the owner says that they finally
got in the CD compilation of the two 12"s I was always asking
about. It’s hard to find, very hard to find. Rhymesayers website
is probably the most infrequently updated "updating soon"
page on the web.
– ‘Fantastic Damage’
Definitive Jux Records
With the possible exception of my father; EL-P is the one of the
most threatening looking white people outside of a madhouse. Something
about the baseball cap and sunglasses screams ‘badass’.
Why can't I do that? The production of ‘Fantastic Damage’
kind of makes you feel like the star of a Japanese horror action
movie directed by David Lynch. And just when I'm thinking "maybe
he's using a little too much echo on the vocals" I'm distracted
by a line like "Sign to Rawkus? I'd rather be mouth-fucked
by Nazi's, unconscious." Woo. It’s the perfect example
of a nerdy guy writing and producing his own shit. McFly! Damn!
– ‘Personal Journals’
This is the album I use to get all my friends to like hip-hop so
I can listen to it around them. Not that there's anything ‘easy
to listen to’ about it. "Every time I listen to 'Inherited
Scars' it makes me cry" says my girlfriend. Tragedy and comedy
amazingly worded over more than a dozen producers and DJs from one
man - Sage Francis. Honestly, he weaves words in an ungodly talented
way, and they get up inside your head. When was the last time the
something got in your head? (and no, I don't mean singing Pink in
the shower) And…ah I'm fucking tired of writing reviews.
– ‘Appleseed EP’
So I lied, and the uber-out-of-print Appleseed EP is the hardest
album to find, but worth it. Aesop Rock is the voice of the asphalt
in the run down neighbourhoods of New York - literally. Ace Rock
sounds like he swallowed a handful of glass before recording; in
a great way. It’s the kind of voice you can only find in hip
hop, impossible to imitate in both tone and speed. The thing I love
most about this album is the production. My friend Chendo used to
say that anything that had a good string sample was instant head
nod material. I must agree. This is the face of hip hop.
– ‘The Other Side Of The Looking Glass’
Another showcase of Anticon Record's willingness to experiment with
what is and what isn't hip-hop. No, not in an ‘Andrew Q and
the Free Jazz Crusaders’ kind of way, but a self-produced
and almost painfully self-conscious vein. Imagine the music a beat
poet would make if you took away free jazz. Imagine piano riffs.
Soft beats, but ones that will still make your head nod. "This
time the rhyme will intertwine with your spine and help you realize
that I'm matching words for the sake of it. C'mon, y'all, rhymes
can't intertwine with your spine, it's not physically possible."
I'd like to think that if I made a hip-hop album, it'd sound like
this. Only this is really good.
- ‘Sparkle Classic’
This shit is underground. Lord Grunge and Grape-A-Don know how to
cut shit. Rhymes about Skeletor, thirty foot tall androids, and
Slippery When Wet never sounded so fucking tough. The only reason
these guys aren't all over every magazine on the face of the planet
is they won't go major until they get an offer on their terms only.
They're touring Europe in the early September, so go.
So you can find any
of these wonderful albums at http://sandboxautomatic.com,
(or buy direct from http://anticon.com
except Appleseed. You can still get the rest of Aesop Rock's stuff
from Sandbox and The Giant Peach. Now, be gone.
Arpad Crisis is an independent freelance writer. His views do not
necessarily coincide with eyemachine's
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